Foxconn founder and chairman Terry Gou said he is running for president of Taiwan in next year’s election.
Most Taiwanese are fed up with traditional politics on the island, and this, I believe, gives Gou a good chance of winning.
With a personal fortune of US$7.7 billion, Guo, 68, has been the richest man in Taiwan for years.
His business empire has risen to global prominence as the main production partner of leading smartphone brands like Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi.
It’s estimated that Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Foxconn’s main listed entity, has a total workforce of 1.3 million, making it the world’s fifth largest employer. It’s also the biggest private employer in mainland China.
Apart from Hon Hai Precision, the group has other listed entities across Greater China and Japan, including Foxconn Industrial Internet Co. (601135.CN) and FIH Mobile Ltd. (02038.HK).
With his significant influence over the manufacturing sector, job markets and capital markets, it is not surprising that Gou has close ties with many political leaders.
President Xi Jinping has met with Gou numerous times since he rose to power in 2012. Xi even called Gou “an old friend of mine” during a meeting with a handful of entrepreneurs after the 19th Party Congress in 2017.
Gou is also one of the business leaders US President Donald Trump met after he won the White House in 2016. Last year Gou invested in a US$10 billion LCD display factory in Wisconsin.
Business success and personal wealth are often regarded as a gauge of capability and a source of one’s charisma. Which is perhaps why there are a growing number of billionaire presidents in the world, including Trump, Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko, Chile’s Sebastian Piñera and Indonesia’s Joko Widodo.
While it is too early to say who’s going to win in the 2020 election, the latest poll shows that Gou has higher support rate than rivals such as President Tsai Ing-wen, former premier William Lai Ching-te and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu.
But while Gou’s close relationships with political leaders come as a great business advantage, this sort of links may become a hindrance to his election bid, considering that the biggest political issues involve the United States and mainland China.
There is also the question of conflict of interests, given his enormous business interests. Most businessmen who rose to become president have cut links with their business enterprises.
If Guo steps down from his companies, finding someone to fill his shoes will be a big challenge.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 17
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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